Elder '03: The Photograph

I'm sitting, quietly now. All the other voices have gone, a dreary river of gray mumbled sorrows that passed me by as I stood aside from the world. And now all is silent. Just the ticking of the clock on the mantle remains. Its echoing monotony almost palpable, as if I can feel the waves of sound in the air right down to my bones… reminding me that time stops for no one. Not me, not them, not him.

I'm staring at a photo. A black and white photo in a silver frame, the weight of it in my hands reminds me of the apparent expense it cost. The picture itself still looks as it did the day I took it. A moment in time frozen with the shutter of a camera lens, transformed into a ghostly representation of the colourful living scene I was trying to capture for evermore: an ethereal image of a living, breathing, vibrant soul, who had taken my life and given it meaning.

Teardrops fall, undeniable, onto the glass surface. My fingers stroke a distracted pattern through the puddles of my tears, tracking across the form of the image underneath, blurring.

Everything is black and white now. Everything is gray. Monotone. Dull and lifeless. It hurts too much to remember, and I cannot do it. I cannot do it without him. My eyes are burning so, and there is something in my chest – a tightness that makes it hard to breathe.

Without bidding, that day reclaims me and I can hear children laughing in the playground, the gentle breeze swaying the trees and playing through my hair as I look at my love through the camera lens. It's a fine day in the park, a fine day to capture an image of happiness. The light is so perfect that it has fluidity. Fluidity that caresses and highlights and glimmers, that goes through to the core and lights the subject from within. The way he tilts his head as I try to come to terms with the apparatus in my grasp. A new hobby he is trying to encourage by being a willing, if shy, model.

I took several dozen photos that day. All discarded in a forgotten drawer decades ago. This one – this one perfect meeting of light and shadow – has rested on the mantle of every place we called home. Even then it took my breath away. A spirit shining through the tones of gray. And now it tears at my heart. It reminds me what a precious gift I have lost… that the world has lost. Never to be reclaimed.

All that remains of him is that small plaque in a field of green, where he rests among friends. All else that is left is memories. Fond memories, boisterous memories… some down right melancholy memories, cherished in the minds a few old men until the time when they too sleep for eternity under the verdant hill. After that, there will still be this photograph. It will never fade, nor wrinkle or die, as we are sentenced to. It will always show the viewer, in no uncertain terms, the love this man had, the life that he had. The beauty of his soul burning brightly – a beauty that was his and his alone. And the viewer will know, simply know, that someone had loved this man and been loved in return, treasured above all else. And I was treasured, even as I stood behind the camera that day, too young and in love to have any concerns about the image I was capturing, no knowing that it would someday be the last thing I had to remind me of my love.

The light is fading from the window now. I haven't moved from this spot for an eternity it seems. I can sit here until I am ready to join him, I believe. It's not dark yet, but the tide of time is flowing ever onwards, and I am adrift on its steady current.

There are no more tears left. I pray to sleep… and hope to dream.